Argentina Escapes Elimination With Late Goal

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his teams’s first goal against Nigeria.Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his teams’s first goal against Nigeria.

On Match day 3 of the FIFA World Cup Group D matches, Argentina reached the knockout stage with a late minutes strike at Nigeria to win the game 2-1, as group mate Croatia beat Iceland 2-1 to finish as table topper with three wins; Peru beat Australia 2-0 in Group C but both bid farewell to the cup; Denmark and France marked the first 0-0 of the tournament and both qualified for the next round.

On Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Russia, Lionel Messi and Argentina scraped into the knockout stages by the skin of their teeth after an 86th minute strike from defender Marcos Rojo gave the team a barely deserved 2-1 win over Nigeria, eliminating the African side.

Messi had put his side ahead in the 14th minute, with a fabulously taken goal but the Africans equalized through a Victor Moses penalty in the 51st minute. The South Americans struggled to respond to that setback with a ragged second half display.

For all their attacking talent, it was their center half Rojo who delivered the decisive blow with a powerful and accurate strike that Messi himself would have been proud of.

Nigeria was just minutes away from progressing before Rojo superbly volleyed home a Gabriel Mercado cross from the right.

The twice World Cup champion Argentina will face France in the last 16 while Croatia, which advance as winner of Group D with the maximum nine points, after beating Iceland 2-1, will take on Denmark.

A revamped Croatia topped Group D as Ivan Perisic’s last-gasp goal helped the team maintain a perfect record with a 2-1 win that also ended valiant Iceland’s tournament in Rostov.

Perisic, along with Luka Modric, struck in the last minute to confirm a last-16 clash with Denmark.

Iceland, which had a handful of good chances and came close to a major upset as the night’s scenarios kept on changing, finish bottom of the group with one point but high in its thunder-clapping fans’ esteem.

 Peru vs. Australia

A stunning Andre Carrillo volley gave Peru its first World Cup goal in 36 years before captain Paolo Guerrero grabbed a second as the Andean nation condemned Australia to a 2-0 defeat in Sochi on Tuesday and a regretful exit from Russia.

Guerrero set up Carrillo’s 18th-minute wonder goal from the edge of the box with a delightful cross, then scored from a deflection five minutes after the interval to send Peru’s red-and-white army of fans into ecstasy at the Fisht Stadium, Sochi.

Although already eliminated, the South Americans head home on a high note, having grabbed their first World Cup win since their 4-1 defeat of Iran at the 1978 finals in Argentina.

Denied a place at the global showpiece for 36 years, Peru finished third in Group C with three points, while the Socceroos headed home with just one point.

 Goal Drought

The goals finally dried up at this thrilling World Cup on Tuesday when a flat France and dull Denmark played out a mutually beneficial 0-0 draw at the Luzhniki Stadium which allowed the French to finish top of Group C and the Danes to qualify in second spot in Moscow.

Thirty-six games in Russia had failed to result in a goalless stalemate, but neither France nor Denmark ever looked like scoring in a tedious affair.

France was already assured qualification but wanted to go through in top spot to avoid a likely last-16 clash with in-form Croatia.

Denmark could have only been denied qualification had they lost to France and had Australia beaten Peru in the match being simultaneously played in Sochi. But with the Peruvians winning 2-0, the Moscow clash was settled for the French.

France and Denmark supporters knew that the 0-0 was good news and, hardly surprised by what was unfolding, displayed pockets of cheerful resistance. The neutrals, however, were left frustrated that it was their lot to find themselves watching the dullest game of the tournament.

The patience of the crowd finally cracked with 15 minutes left when Denmark looked to launch a counter-attack only for the man in possession to realize that virtually every one of his team mates had decided to stay in his own half and wish him the best of luck on his own.

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